As a wee lad in grade school, we had to recite this at the beginning of the school day. We'd face the flag, place our right hand over our heart...

I pledge allegiance / to the flag / of the United States of America / and to the republic / for which it stands / one nation / under God* / indivisible / with liberty / and justice for all

*This part was added in the 50's during the days of the twin memes of religionism and the hysteria against Godless Communism.

I haven't said the pledge in school for several years.
I sit in silent protest.
It is brainwashing of the most blatant form.
Why are our children pledging allegiance before they know what "pledge" or "allegiance" even mean?

Not to mention the "under god" part which violates the 1st Amendment of the constitution of the United States of America.

I had several teachers threaten me with detention/suspension for not mindlessly reciting the monotheistic-tainted pledge. I stood my ground, and they all left me alone eventually. I've heard from several others that kids have been suspended for refusing to recite the pledge. Even though this is blatantly wrong for them to do so, not everyone can afford to take it to court.
I'm not sure I can say I have much beef against the concept of a pledge of national allegience beyond my whole nasty quaker don't want to swear an oath thing (i.e. by living in this country you implicitly state that it is your nation of choice and you will do what is in your power to support it) being a member of a society does bear with it certain responsibilities -- the whole bit about making children swear is not a point I'll go into but i suppose I must get to my actual point somewhere along the line:

How is it that we swear our loyalty to an empty form -- the mere symbol of our country embodied in the flag rather than to the country itself? To swear myself to a mere piece of cloth, to a few stars and stripes forever seem ludicrous to me -- the implication is that, should we ever change the national flag, everyone would no longer be beholden to the old one. And, considering the flag has been changed every time we've gotten ourselves a little more land, that would leave a lot of non-americans -- wouldn't it?

How is it that we put so much stock in a mere symbol? A handle to the country?

I for one haven't been saying the pledge for 4 years, ever since I was old enough to understand the words and how many of them contradicted my own value system and morals. I've been reprimanded several times for not saying it, but nothing real has come of it yet.

The pledge was also used as an integral part of the plot of The Children's Story... (but not just for children) by James Clavell, (author of Shogun), to demonstrate how easily someone's beliefs can be manipulated.
I returned to school this year, now a big bad 10th grader. Today it is September 11th, 2002, that is, the first anniversary since the terrorist attacks. I haven't said the pledge for about two years, I reckon. When a teacher tells me to stand up, I do, otherwise I sit in silence while the pledge is recited.

Today our principal came on the loudspeaker and told us all to stand and say the pledge. I did it. I put my right hand over my heart and I said it, with my classmates, recited every word.

It felt so wrong. We may be guaranteed the right to not pledge, but that doesn't account for what people will say and think if you don't.

Francis Bellamy and his Pledge of Allegiance

Francis (1855-1931) and Edward (1850-1898) Bellamy were cousins of two brothers who had both been Baptist ministers. Edward was a writer who increasingly became involved in socialist causes, eventually writing "socialist utopian" novels (1888's Looking Backward was highly regarded and thought to be influential as well as being one of the best selling novels of the 19th century). From his works sprung the so-called "nationalist clubs" and the movement called "nationalism" (not nationalism as it generally is defined but meant as "nationalization" as in "public ownership and management of the economy"). That said, we can dispense with Edward, since it's his brother we are interested in.

One of Edward's chief supporters and a charter member of the Nationalist Club was Francis. Francis, like his father and uncle had gone to seminary and entered the Baptist ministry. From that background the Society of Christian Socialists was founded. Its principles were

that economic rights and powers were gifts of God, not for the receiver's use only, but for the benefit of all. All social, political and industrial relations should be based on the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, in the spirit of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Capitalism was not based on Christian love but on a selfish individualism.

Further:

A major objective of the Christian Socialists was to show that the objectives of socialism were embraced in the goals of Christianity. The teachings of Jesus Christ lead directly toward some form of socialism and, in obedience to Christ, the Christian Church should apply itself to the realization of the Social Gospel of Christianity through Socialism.

His work in the society, as spokesman for Nationalism and socialism, and his sermons touching on these subjects that were so dear and important to him, eventually upset others within the ministry. In 1890, the (conservative) Committee on Christian Work of the Baptist Social Union reduced appropriations to his church.

Bellamy was justifiably upset since he fully believed that the bible, particularly the New Testament, taught the principles of socialism and that "he had become a Christian Socialist on the basis of the Scriptures alone." (Even George Bernard Shaw considered some of Jesus' doctrines to be socialist in nature.) In January of 1891, he wrote a letter explaining his case and stating that if funding was not reinstated, he would resign. In April, he did.

Bellamy went to his friend Daniel Ford and got a job on the magazine The Youth's Companion. It was a very popular family magazine of the time with one of the largest circulations of any American magazine. It was a time in America when patriotism was not only valued by thought of as matter-of-fact. Reverence for the flag was strong—14 June 1885 began the observance of Flag Day.

Ford's nephew James Bailey Upham was an important part of the magazine and a great promoter of various patriotic campaigns (generally through the magazine). In 1888, he launched a campaign to get flags flown over school houses. He also promoted the sale of patriotic-themed pictures for the walls of classrooms, and other things of a similar nature. In 1891 and 1892, he was in charge of arranging the National Public Schools Celebration for Columbus. It was to be centered around schools and a flag ceremony (he originally asked child readers if they were interested in the proposition and got a very positive reaction).

With backing by the magazine and other educational and governmental institutions and groups (and with Bellamy appointed to head the National Public School Celebration for the Quadricentennial), Upham and Bellamy went ahead planning the celebration. Readers were urged to get their teachers interested and involved and mass mailings, circulars, and press releases were used to help get the word out. Enthusiasm was high.

The planned ceremony was fairly simple, in eight parts, Bellamy writing the "The Address for Columbus Day, The meaning of Four Centuries" and what was then referred to as the "flag salute" (which was when the children would recite what was to become known as the pledge). The latter after Upham made several unsuccessful attempts at writing (it was later challenged that he had written it rather than Bellamy, partly to blame because of the magazine's practice to not use bylines; it was later refuted).

Previously, the only well known flag salute was called the Colonel Balch's salute. It was short and simple: "We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag." (Note the reference to God, more later.) Bellamy and Upham felt it should be more than a salute, it should be a "vow of allegiance." Bellamy decided to use "pledge" rather than "vow" or "oath."

The pledge first appeared in its orginal wording in the 8 September 1892 issue of The Youth's Companion. It read:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

(The "to" the Republic was added in October of that year.) Pledging allegiance to the Flag and the Republic, "one nation," and "indivisible" were all things that would have resonated for many at a time when the Civil War was less than forty years prior.

The first apparent use of it in public was during New York City's massive three day Columbus Day celebration around October 12. Other schools recited it on the 21st (a somewhat more accurate date after the calendar changes are taken into consideration). It was on that date in Boston that Bellamy first heard and saw his Pledge used. On signal, the students would give the flag a military salute and begin the Pledge. At "to my flag" they would give what would become a standard salute consisting of raising the right arm, palm upward, toward the flag, then dropping it to their side when finished (this was apparently used in some places until almost 1950 and looks remarkably similar to the Nazi salute).

The words "my Flag" were changed to "the Flag of the United States of America" in 1924 by the National Flag Conference (partly led by the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution). This was a change Bellamy was opposed to but he was ignored. In 1942, it became officially recognized by the United States government.

Then in 1954, partly due to campaigning by the Knights of Columbus, President Dwight D. Eisenhower managed to get Congress to legislate the addition of "under God" (probably not surprising during the Cold War and the Red Scare when American was busy demonizing the "Godless Communists"). According to Bellamy's granddaughter, that change would also have upset him, not only after being pressured out of the ministry but since his retirement to Florida, he ceased attending church, finding too much "racial bigotry" there.

Added to the 1954 legislation was the behavior with which to recite the Pledge. One must be upright, without any sort of head covering, and have one's right hand over his or her heart.

In June 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Newdow v. U.S. Congress that school children could not be forced to recite the pledge as a classroom, teacher led (thus school sanctioned) activity. Newdow was an atheist who

[claimed] that his daughter is injured when she is compelled to "watch and listen as her state-employed teacher in her state-run school leads her classmates in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God, and that our's [sic] is 'one nation under God.'

The recitation was school policy. The court determined that the establishment clause regarding religion and the government was violated, since this was, in essence, state endorsement of religion. If one wishes to take it further, it is endorsement of monotheism, and further still, of the Judeo-Christian God. Even though Islam is not only monotheistic, developed from the others, and Allah often claimed to be the same god, there is not really any reason to think this would be the issue it quickly became had it been "one nation under Allah." In fact, it would have been kicked out of the schools long ago.

In the ruling Judge Alfred T. Goodwin (interestingly, a Nixon appointee) pointed out that

Although [individual] students cannot be forced to participate in recitation of the pledge, the school district is nonetheless conveying a message of state endorsement of a religious belief when it requires public school teachers to recite, and lead the recitation of, the current form of the pledge,

and

A profession that we are a nation "under God" is identical...to a profession that we are a nation "under Jesus," a nation "under Vishnu," a nation "under Zeus," or a nation "under no god," because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion.
(Washington Post)

Almost as if to prove his point, US elected officials showed themselves to be nowhere near "neutral with respect to religion."

In what is probably only partially informed by the current (2001-2002) sense of patriotism-nationalism (things that have long been highly correlated with religion, particularly Christianity), pro-pledge people began circling wagons and issuing statements (and threats) almost immediately. Right after the ruling, the US Senate voted on a resolution in support of the pledge. It passed 99-0, with Jesse Helms (R-NC) absent.

The senate also advised legal counsel to "seek to intervene in the case to defend its constitutionality." Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) stated that "I think we need to send a clear message that the Congress disagrees," and that "The Congress is going to intervene, the Congress is going to do all that it can to live up to the expectations of the American people" (Reuters). He also called it "just nuts" (Washington Post). He urged senate members to show up at the beginning of session the next day to recite the pledge together (apparently not many do this on a regular basis). Members of the House of Representatives gathered on the steps of the Capitol and recited it together.

Trent Lott (R-MS) called the ruling "unbelievable," "incorrect," and "stupid," saying that if it was not overturned on appeal (as many expect) that Congress will take matters into its own hands. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) stated that "A judge who believes the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional doesn't belong on the bench" and "I hope the court returns all the taxpayer money they have been paid in currency marked 'In God We Trust'" (Reuters). House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) described it as "sad" and "absurd." The president (through spokesman Ari Fleischer) called it "ridiculous."

Perhaps it should come as no surprise given Eisenhower's statement in 1954 that

From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.

(Sources: John W. Baer's excellent detailed history found at www.vineyard.net/vineyard/history/pdgech0.htm as well as his "The Pledge of Allegiance A Short History," also there—quotes from those pages; www.britannica.com; 2002 updates taken from the links and the wire service available at www.yahoo.com, also very helpful was Newdow v. U.S. Congress)

Every time I hear the Pledge of Allegiance, (keep in mind it has been 5 years since), I always think of a segment from Joseph Heller's Catch-22. This is a segment referring to when the Colonels Cathcart and Korn bring about a loyalty oath crusade:

"Whether they mean it or not is irrelevant. The important thing is to keep them pledging. That's why we have children reciting the pledge of allegiance before they know what 'pledge' and 'allegiance' mean."

Because of this nature of the pledge, there has been endless complaining and bickering by many people who believe that it's a ploy by the government to brainwash us all. But is it really so bad? A little nationalism never hurt anyone.

In the novel Catch-22, the loyalty oath crusade does nothing. Serivcemen sign the oaths so they can get their meals, not particularly caring what the piece of paper says. Kids recite the pledge of allegiance in the morning at school not out of their own free will, but really just to shut the administrators and teachers up. If there was ever a day that the school PA system failed to turn on and recite the pledge, I heavily doubt the children would take it upon themselves to stop everything and recite the pledge, or rather silently recite the pledge to themselves. Nobody cares, it's just a formality and a tradition.

When the Soviet Union was still around, the militarization of Soviet society required the recitation of nationalistic songs that make the pledge look like nothing. There is nothing in the pledge that says, "I will die for my country," or anything about buying into an official state ideology. All the pledge means is that 'I will be loyal and true to my country."

The complaint that people are pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth is misunderstood. The next line very explicitly states, "And to the republic for which it stands." Symbolism and tradition, that's all. In court, and everyone rises for the Judge, they're not rising for him, but rather standing to respect what his robes represent and stand for. That is the government and the society which is represented and protected through the law. When the Judge goes home, his or her family does not stand up for him when he enters his house, nor do people stand up when he enters a restaurant. Same reason, people don't respect and salute the flag because it's a colored piece of cloth, but rather for what it stands and represents.

So when everyone complains about American society and brainwashing, lets not forget that we are a nation that takes its civil liberties for granted. At least we're not China or North Korea, or worse yet a theocracy like Afghanistan. So from now on, give Uncle Sam a little break, he hasn't been so bad to us.

Per several requests to relocate this...


To Pledge Allegiance to a flag...

Every Wednesday at around 9:00, we stand in class and chant the same set of words that we've been chanting since we started school, however long ago. Since we were five years old, those same words have been drilled into our heads. We could probably recite the pledge in our sleep. But why do we say it? Why is this "patriotism" ground into us? We didn't even know what the words meant when we started, and I doubt that many of us think about it even now. Should we say these words without any reflection on what the words mean? We don't show any respect due to the people who have secured those words for us. And we give all the respect due, and more, to those who hammered uniformity and unthinking servitude into us. We become drones every Wednesday at 9:00. This is not patriotism. This is the same as a clan salute. This is Hitler's "Hail" wrapped up in an American flag and painted red, white, and blue, to hide the swastika-like cross of conservatism and anti-individualsim. You don't show devotion to a country by pledging allegiance to a tattered cloth with 13 stripes and 50 stars. Can you really buy patriotism at Wal-Mart?

If so, then how can we call anyone in America unpatriotic, be they priest, Muslim, soldier, or skin-head? Is it so easy to be an American? Apparently there is nothing more to serving a country than opening your mouth! You show your deviotion and your willingness to assist through actions! Saying you will is one thing, but it means nothing compared to doing! Even then, what is doing if you do it for a cause that you don't believe in? Why doesn't that marine, or that office secretary, or even that student standing in class, fight back? Is it because there is nothing to fight? Is it because the country is too "ideal" to be corrosive to our patience? NO! We don't fight back because we can't fight this enemy. Society will THROW YOU DOWN, if you fight. You will get called names, beaten up, and depending on the severity, even suspended if you don't conform. But we who don't stand and pledge are conforming. We just choose to show our patriotism in actions, and not in words.

SO when we don't stand and drone on the pledge of allegiance, don't call us names, or give us crap. I'm not insulting your wonderful machine of conformity. I just choose to savor my individuality and show my mind in my own way and time. I support my country, same as you, except that I don't do it by chanting the same words that I learned when I was six. I'm going to lend a hand, donate time, or give money and blood to help my country. Call me unpatriotic? Ever Wednesday you chant a jumble of words. I work, fight, and help people to support my country. Who's unpatriotic now?

In the eigth grade, my Health Class teacher offered ten extra credit points to anyone who could write down the Pledge of Allegiance all the way through with complete punctuation and perfect spelling. I failed.

His point, of course, was to challenge us to think about this thing we were reciting every day. And that was probably the first time I really looked at it.

Flags are obviously symbols. But symbols for what? Not for this nation. If I wanted to pledge allegiance to this nation, I'd just do that. It would read, simply: "I pledge allegiance to the United States of America...". The flag, to me, is a symbol of the ideals of this nation. The flag symbolizes everything this country should be. Everything this country strives to be, though it may fall short much of the time.

Furthermore, 'under God' to me does not refer to some Judeo-Christian Yahweh-type, divine, omnipotent being. It refers to my heart of hearts which is what tells me what's right and what's wrong. It refers to that which informs my ideals of what makes this the greatest nation. You know, things like freedom and courage as well as pluralism and tolerance.

So, after that day, I've tried to think about those things every time I recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Even when that sorta-goth kid who I thought was really cool would clasp his hands behind his back and bow his head, I would proudly cover my heart and hold my head high as I recited very mindfully these words that I'd known since kindergarten, but whose potency I hadn't before that one day in Health Class.

I don't say it much anymore, because I've since made a much bigger commitment, one that displays my heartfelt patriotism better than words can.

Of course, that's just what it means to me. By no means would I judge someone else for not saying it, or try to force anyone to say it. I'm not even condoning the practice of mass recital in public schools. I am, perhaps, challenging your blind refusal to pledge allegiance to the nation in which you implicitly choose to reside. Refusing to do something just because everyone else is is just as bad as conforming.

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